Kenny promises a 'leaner public service'


PRESS CONFERENCE:TAOISEACH ENDA Kenny has promised the Government’s public sector reform plan will produce a “leaner, smarter and better public service”, and said the Coalition was determined to “draw a line under the decentralisation programme”.

At a press conference after publication of the proposals, Mr Kenny said “waste and duplication in the system” had been identified, along with State bodies that were no longer needed – or affordable. “We lay out our vision here for a new, leaner, smarter and better public service. One that will be better equipped to promote job creation and to deliver top quality public services,” he said.

The Fine Gael leader said the proposed reforms were essential to avoid additional tax increases.

He announced the cancellation of the controversial decentralisation programme, which aimed to move thousands of civil servants out of Dublin. “Today we draw a line under the decentralisation programme, one of the most ill-judged and badly planned ideas of the last government, once and for all,” Mr Kenny said.

Tánaiste and Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore said when the financial crisis hit, part of the response had been the “sponsoring of a campaign of abuse and vilification” of public servants.

Pressed on who he believed was behind such a campaign, Mr Gilmore blamed “the last government”, and said the view was reflected in “sometimes very vulgar commentary” in newspaper articles. Mr Gilmore said he wanted to make clear this Government valued the public service and respected those who worked in it.

He said the document was an example of the Government’s determination “not to waste a crisis”. The “demanding” plan was more than a series of cost-cutting measures. It was a “blueprint for the reform and reinvigoration of the public service”, he insisted.

Mr Gilmore said the public sector could of course learn lessons from the private sector, but stressed many public service bodies were “fundamentally different” from private companies.

The Croke Park agreement on public service pay and reform was delivering, “but it will have to continue delivering”.

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin said the most significant item in the plan was the “extraordinary reduction” in public service numbers that would reduce the pay bill by more than €2.5 billion annually. “Based on the figures at the end of 2010, the total number of public service employees will be reduced by a further 23,500 by 2015. It’s a very large number. At that point, public service numbers will have fallen from their peak in 2008 by some 37,500, or 12 per cent.”

On cuts in the number of State bodies, he said 48 would be “rationalised” by the end of 2012, with a further 46 to be reviewed by mid-2012. Net savings from reductions in so-called quangos would be “modest enough”. Annualised savings on the first reduction would be about €20 million.